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Wind Farms Condemned By Tory Energy Minister
The Tory energy minister has infuriated his Lib Dem boss by appearing to declare there would be no further expansion of onshore wind farms.
John Hayes was slapped down by Energy Secretary Ed Davey for saying wind turbines had been "peppered around the country" and insisting "enough is enough".
Sky News understands that Mr Davey blocked similar comments from a speech the minister made on Tuesday at a Renewables UK event after being shown a first draft.
But to the Energy Secretary's fury, his deputy's controversial stance was revealed anyway after Mr Hayes spoke to the Daily Mail's political editor.
The intervention will delight scores of Conservative MPs, who have been urging David Cameron to block further expansion of onshore wind farms, but infuriate their Lib Dem partners.
And it prompted environmental campaigners to round on the Government, who branded Mr Hayes "petulant" and accused the coalition of a "growing energy shambles".
According to the quotes in the Daily Mail, Mr Hayes said the spread of turbines "seems extraordinary" and they should no longer be "imposed on communities".
"I can't single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land," he said. "We have issued a call for evidence on wind. That is about cost but also about community buy-in. We need to understand communities' genuine desires.
"We will form our policy in the future on the basis of that, not on a bourgeois Left article of faith based on some academic perspective."
The senior Tory insisted only a minority of proposed wind turbines were needed to meet green targets set by the Government.
"If you look at what has been built, what has consent and what is in the planning system, much of it will not get through and will be rejected. Even if a minority of what's in the system is built, we are going to reach our 2020 target," he said.
He added: "I'm saying enough is enough."
And he claimed new research on wind turbines would make a far wider assessment of their impact on the rural landscape and property prices.
"I have asked the planning minister to look again at the relationship between these turbines and the landscape," he said.
"It seems extraordinary to have allowed them to be peppered around the country without due regard for the interests of the local community or their wishes."
Mr Hayes also said the visual impact of onshore wind farms on environments had been "neglected" and renewable energy needed "genuine community support".
"The salience of aesthetics to discussions about renewables has often been neglected," he added. "All that we do must be sensitive to local environments."
In a public rebuke, Mr Davey issued a statement making clear the Government was not closing the door on new onshore wind farms and that its policy had not changed.
"Onshore wind is one of the cheapest renewables, which is why we've been able to cut the subsidy. It has an important role to play in our future," he said.
The Energy Secretary stressed no targets or caps are being applied to wind farms and that no reviews are being done about their effect on landscape or property values.
Mr Davey had reportedly already taken steps to limit Mr Hayes' responsibilities after the Tory was given the energy brief in the September reshuffle because he was so concerned about his views.
Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, said his organisation was "disappointed" by the minister's comments.
Greenpeace energy campaigner Leila Deen added: "John Hayes' petulant outburst adds to the Coalition's growing energy shambles and to a deepening divide within Government between those who care about green growth and the economy and those who just want more oil and gas.
"Here is a new minister veering off brief and publicly contradicting his bosses. His comments threaten jobs and his approach will drive up energy bills. Cameron needs to take charge."
When confronted by Sky News arriving at his department on Wednesday, Mr Hayes insisted he supported a "balanced energy policy".
"I don't have any comment to make above or beyond what I have already said on the record," he said.